3 Business Strategy Lessons from Game of Thrones


The popular television show Game of Thrones is now in its sixth season and draws millions of viewers globally each episode. While a lot of what happens on screen is firmly within the realms of the fantasy world, the decisions of the characters can be seen to reflect and instruct on some important strategic lessons.

While many commentators have referred to the strategic war and army moves that the many commands conduct in various attempts to secure the coveted top spot of king, there are also plenty examples of individuals using personal strategies in the bid to usurp even their own family.

Here are three lessons business leaders and managers can learn from the HBO series Game of Thrones.

1. Stannis Baratheon (Don’t over commit)

When Stannis Baratheon tried to retake the north from Roose Bolton he desperately pushed to rally the Northerners to his side, including Jon Snow. Eventually over half of Stannis’ army mutinies – including all of his mercenaries and horses – to join the Boltons.

Driven by the overestimation of his own ability, Stannis Baratheon decides to finish the march on Winterfell, but on foot. He promptly loses this battle with a significantly depleted army and is slaughtered quickly, putting an anticlimactic and instant end to his ambitions, and his life.

What lessons can we learn from this? Firstly, that knowing when to stop and re-strategise is an important lesson for any canny manager. By over committing his men, and focusing on the wrong aspects of his campaign, he wasted what could have been a reasonable bid for the throne.

2. Wait for dragons to mature (bide your time) 

Daenerys Targaryen has long been the standout character of the Game of Thrones series. Daenerys is arguably the nearest thing the show has to a narrative protagonist and thus is one of the most popular through the eyes of its many fans.

One thing that sets her a part is her amazing strategic long game. Over the six seasons, she has transformed from a timid girl into a fierce, mature warrior. Never once opting for battle unless the cards were aligned and her strategy was firmly in place, this character shows us how it is done regarding biding one’s time.

Business must wait for their proverbial dragons to mature.Businesses must wait for their proverbial dragons to mature.

Her number one action, or rather inaction, was to wait until the iron was piping hot, and her dragons were fully grown, before striking.

The lessons are abound as to what can be learnt from Daenerys Targaryen. For starters she is wary of trusting just anyone, preferring to keep her aides few. Daenerys strategy is also to protect her greatest fighting asset – her dragons.

Her timidness to trust coupled with her long game approach to using her dragons can be used as a parallel when looking at entering new markets. As the saying goes, timing is everything, a truism perhaps, but timing will always a vital ingredient for success in business.

3. Winter is coming (always be prepared)

The kingdoms on Game of Thrones regularly rise and fall, just like global markets and global supply will rise and fall when impacted by geopolitical forces. But the ever-encroaching threat of “Winter Is Coming” seems to drive the tension for most seasons of Game of Thrones because it is a force that is constant and unchanging in its threat.

There is a lesson here for business that is broad and far-reaching, and this is that a firm can never be content with the status quo, because the proverbial winter is always coming.

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